In honor of Donna VanBuecken’s leadership
of the Fox Valley Area Chapter and
of her fifth anniversary as the organization’s
executive director, our chapter presented a check
for $1,000 to Wild Ones at the annual meeting
in St Louis, Missouri.
Donna truly deserves recognition as a “shooting
star.” As our chapter’s first president,
she nurtured our organization much as she now
nurtures seedling chapters. Those of us who were
called together in the summer of 1994 by the
Winnebago County, University of Wisconsin extension
horticulturist to explore the possibility of
starting a new wildflower interest group remember
that it was Donna’s suggestion that we
look into affiliating with an organization called
Wild Ones. I’m not sure any of the rest
of us had ever heard of this group.
At her instigation, we invited Curt and Judy
Crane and Mandy Ploch of Milwaukee to tell us
more about Wild Ones; that same night we voted
to become the Fox Valley Area Chapter of Wild
Ones. We elected officers and held our first
official chapter meeting under Donna’s
leadership in January, 1995. It was exciting
to be part of the creation of this new group
and, it was sometimes very challenging too. Through
it all, Donna always maintained her upbeat, positive
attitude just as she does in the national organization
Honoring Donna gave us an opportunity to find
out a few things about her that we’ve never
had a chance to ask. She recalls that her mother
loved flowers and had a special affinity for
wildflowers, even though she didn’t particularly
differentiate between natives and non-natives.
Donna shared this appreciation, and in 1986 when
she and her husband, John, moved to their home
in Appleton, Wisconsin, her interest soon came
to the forefront.
There was a creek that would overflow into their
backyard, leaving water standing in some areas.
John had 80 dump truck loads of fill brought
in, and Donna wanted to try planting some wildflowers.
She knew she needed information that would not
be easy to find. She learned about and joined
the nearest chapter of Wild Ones, which at the
time was Milwaukee North, about 100 miles away.
She managed to attend a few meetings, yard tours,
and a seed exchange or two. She also got acquainted
with some other Appleton-area members. Donna
says that it was these people and those she met
at Milwaukee meetings who were most influential
in her early learning experiences.
As busy as she is with national duties, Donna
also participates in, and takes special pride
in, our chapter’s many projects. These
include the chapter handbook; organization of
spring and fall native plant sales; the Natural
Landscaping for Tomorrow grants program; the
continuing education credits for teachers who
attend our annual natural landscaping conference;
the identification of receiving areas, such as
schools and nature centers, to whom we donate
a portion of all native plants from our plant
rescues; and the prairie identification project.
She is very pleased that many of these ideas
have been adopted by the national organization.
Donna is particularly proud of all the members
who make our chapter what it is. And what does
she dream of for the national organization? Donna
quickly answers: “30,000 members instead
Carol is a founding member and past president
of the Fox Valley Area (WI) Chapter.
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